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Critical Pedagogies and First-year Engineering Students' Conceptions of 'What it Means to be an Engineer'

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Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Social Justice, Social Responsibility, and Critical Pedagogies

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

18

DOI

10.18260/1-2--28088

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/28088

Download Count

415

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Paper Authors

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Ashley R. Taylor Virginia Tech

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Ashley Taylor is a doctoral student in engineering education at Virginia Polytechnic and State University, where she also serves as a program assistant for the Center for Enhancement of Engineering Diversity and an advisor for international senior design projects in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Ashley received her MS in Mechanical Engineering, MPH in Public Health Education, and BS in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech. Her research interests include broadening participation in engineering, the integration of engineering education and international development, and building capacity in low and middle income countries through inclusive technical education.

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Cynthia Hampton Virginia Tech

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Cynthia Hampton is a doctoral student in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech.

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Walter C. Lee Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-5082-1411

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Dr. Walter Lee is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education and the Assistant Director for Research in the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity (CEED), both at Virginia Tech. His research interests include co-curricular support, student success and retention, and diversity in STEM. Lee received his Ph.D in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech, his M.S. in Industrial & Systems Engineering from Virginia Tech, and his B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Clemson University.

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Bevlee A. Watford Virginia Tech

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Watford is Professor of Engineering Education, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Director of the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity.

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Ben David Lutz Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0003-2637-0942

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Ben Lutz is a PhD student in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. His research interests include innovative pedagogies in engineering design, exploring student experiences within design settings, school-to-work transitions for new engineers, and efforts for inclusion and diversity within engineering. His current work explores how students describe their own learning in engineering design and how that learning supports transfer of learning from school into professional practice as well as exploring students' conceptions of diversity and its importance within engineering fields.

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Abstract

Critical Pedagogies and First-year Engineering Students’ Conceptions of ‘What it means to be an Engineer’.

Popular stereotypes regarding the type of work engineers do, the values of the engineering profession, and the types of people that become engineers tend to emphasize technical skills and logical problem-solving—often positioning broader global or societal implications as peripheral, secondary concerns. Though numerous studies of engineering practice run counter to such perceptions, these misconceptions persist nonetheless, creating barriers to participation and often causing engineers to overlook critical factors throughout the design process and when evaluating the impacts of their solutions. Thus, we argue that in order to enhance the quality of both the engineering profession and engineers themselves, learning environments should engage students with content that accentuates the connections between engineering and society and addresses the conflict between popular perceptions and actual engineering practice. One successful approach to creating such learning environments is through the use of critical pedagogies. Albeit underutilized in engineering education, critical pedagogies can engage students with knowledge and ways of thinking that enable thoughtful critique of the systems, rules, artifacts, and other worldly aspects that are often taken for granted.

The purpose of this paper is to explore the ways in which critical pedagogies used during a summer bridge program can influence incoming, first-year college students’ perceptions of what it means to be an engineer. Through open-ended entrance surveys and written responses on a final exam, participants were asked to define what it meant to be an engineer. Thematic analysis was used to explore student responses. Findings demonstrate shifts in both students’ perceptions of the engineering profession and their own engineering identities. While entry survey responses focused predominantly on notions of problem solving using math and/or science, students’ final responses discussed topics such as the importance of collaboration in engineering, the need for diverse thinking, and the broader social impact of engineering decision-making. Students articulated increased interest in, as well as more, comprehensive definitions of engineering. Our results suggest that critical pedagogies, particularly situated in summer bridge programs, may be an effective strategy for expanding perceptions of engineering held by first year engineering students. Furthermore, this research has broader implications for pre-college engineering activities and serves to further the conversation surrounding outreach and recruitment of students in engineering.

Taylor, A. R., & Hampton, C., & Lee, W. C., & Watford, B. A., & Lutz, B. D. (2017, June), Critical Pedagogies and First-year Engineering Students' Conceptions of 'What it Means to be an Engineer' Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28088

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